Jordanian Christian Killed in Lebanon Attack
European Missionary Family Targeted in Tripoli Bombing

by Barbara G. Baker

ISTANBUL, May 7 (Compass) -- An Arab convert to Christianity
was killed in a bomb blast last night outside his Tripoli apartment,
adjacent to the home of a European missionary family thought to
have been targeted in the attack.

Jamil Ahmed al-Rifai, 28, died instantly when a 4.5-pound bomb
exploded just before midnight in the Qubba suburb of Tripoli,
Lebanon's northern port city.

Despite reports on the Qatar-based Al-Jazeera television network
that al-Rifai had himself planted the bomb, eyewitnesses
confirmed that the Jordanian Christian was an innocent victim of
the attack.

According to Dutch missionary Gerrit "Joep" Griffioen, who
survived the attack, his wife had spotted an intruder in the garden
next to their ground-floor apartment about 11:30 last night. When
Griffioen shouted at the man from his kitchen balcony, he was
squatting down with "something glimmering between his hands,"
the Dutchman told a close friend in Tripoli today.

Griffioen quickly called his next-door neighbor, al-Rifai, to help
him investigate.

By the time the two men got into the garden, the intruder had fled,
leaving an object that flickered in the dark. With his bare hands,
Griffioen smothered the lit fuse, and then they moved the packet
further away from the house. Thinking that they had extinguished
the bomb, they looked briefly for the intruder and then returned to
the building.

But shortly after Griffioen went back into his home, the bomb
exploded, shattering windows of the nearby houses and damaging
parked cars. Only after summoning the police to the scene did
Griffioen realize that al-Rifai had remained out in the garden,
where he was killed by the blast.

A Jordanian citizen, al-Rifai had lived and studied in Lebanon for
the past six years. According to the Christian advocacy group
Middle East Concern (MEC), al-Rifai left Jordan in 1997 "because
of pressure from the authorities over his conversion to
Christianity."

Griffioen told the Dutch Associated Press (ANP) today that he had
been "repeatedly threatened" during his 20 years of ministry in
Lebanon, but he had never taken the threats seriously.

He was "almost 100 percent certain," the Dutchman said, that the
motive for the attack was religious. While there was widespread
interest in the teachings of Jesus Christ among the Lebanese
people, he said, there were also "people who took offense."

Griffioen and his wife Barbel have three children.

The deadly Tripoli bombing was the second attack against
Christian missionaries in Lebanon in the past six months.

Last November 21, an unidentified gunman shot and killed
American missionary Bonnie Penner Witherall at a Christian
medical clinic in Sidon.

Both Sidon and Tripoli are known centers of Sunni Muslim
militancy in Lebanon, still recovering from a 16-year civil war
which left the populace heavily armed. Although the Beirut central
government has regained control of two-thirds of the country,
security forces have been unable to curtail ongoing acts of
violence.

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